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Alive 5


To some of you the name  of Heinz Rudolf may not sound familiar still I'm sure 
your memory will be shortly  freshened  thanks to  the following  lines. Atari 
shooters fans surely had a great deal of fun with their  machine playing Xenon 
2, Wings of Death  and others. Well  Heinz  Rudolf was responsible for all gfx 
plus some coding in the sequel to Wings of Death  AKA Lethal Xcess. As a funny 
story I happened to play LX before finding out about Wings of Death ! Actually 
the former had my preference  thanks to  its furious  two player  option which 
found me and my friends really addicted !

Some time ago announce was spread that the  official Lethal Xcess homepage was 
opened at There you can read lots of stuff about
the game  development, feedback, levels  maps, music... No  need  to spoil the 
surprise, you'd better pay a  respectable  and  nostalgic visit to the website 
mentioned above. Since  Heinz kindly accepted to spend  some time answering my 
questions, I hope this interview will  get you even more nostalgic and wake up 
nice memories !

STS : Hallo Heinz ! We shall start with the usual introduction : please tell 
us about your current status and responsibilities in the making of LX.

 Heinz: Well, where shall I start ? I  am currently working as  a freelancer in
 the, so called "IT business". Consulting, training, web-design just to mention
 some  of  the activities  that where  constantly  requested from my customers.
 It's nice because I never do the same thing twice, there is a lot of new tasks
 every day and so the job never  gets boring  and last  not least  I am  my own
 boss. The last three years I have been very busy, and there was not much time
 left for anything but my girlfriend and my two little children.

 If you want to know  who  was responsible for what, just  look on  the credits
 page of Mainly I did the artwork for LX with two
 exceptions. The Spectrum 512 title picture and the little font from the main-
 menu were done by Tanis of TCB. Besides I was responsible for some editors and
 for the game design.

 In the current project LX 2002 I am responsible for nearly everything, because
 Claus has simply  no time. But thanks to the  internet, everybody could assist
 me with  graphics or  whatever. Some guys  from France joined  our forces  and
 promised to do some graphics. You could assist too, if you still can draw with
 the great NEOchrome Master (thanks to Chaos Inc. AKA Till Bubeck for improving
 this  great  piece  of software) just  contact me. But  you  better visit  the
 website, because I will tell you in  detail what we need and  what progress is
 made in the projects subdivision.

STS : now for some history  lesson. We would like to know how you came to work 
on LX especially when thinking  that this  sequel was developed by a different 
team. Why did the makers of Wings of Death didn't go on with the sequel ? Were 
they bored with making games ? Already busy with other activities ? We want to 
know :)

 Heinz: LX was  no  sequel to WoD  when the  development  started. We  had been
 working on a jump and  run, when Xenon  II hit  the scene. We  kicked away all
 jump and  run stuff  and started working  on a shoot'em up. The  sprite engine
 and the sync scrolling  where finished long  before we visited Marc and showed
 him our engine. Marc had left Thalion and founded his own company (Eclipse) at
 this time and he was searching for new games to distribute. He would have done
 WoD II himself, but LX was the same genre, the engine was finished and lots of
 graphics  had  been  painted. And  nobody  believed  that  we  would  get  the
 permission to use the title  WoD II, so  why should he  begin a new  game from
 scratch, when another one is partially finished.

STS : I read that you belonged to an ATARI demo crew before working on LX. What
about it ? Did you release  demos ? games ? Was it  when you  met other people 
who were to work on LX as well ? Btw  is there's nice  stuff we can get, don't 
hesitate to give us some essential url.

 That's true, our demo crew was named XTroll and consisted of Sunnyboy, Nexus 6
 and the Cyclone. Claus Frein (Sunnyboy) and Mirko Moenninghoff (Nexus 6) coded
 lots of amazing (?) stuff on the ST. But we had been pretty isolated. Demos of
 other crews  passed us  mainly one year  late, if they came at all. Claus main
 business was cracking and coding but he did it just for fun, we never spreaded
 anything. For example when we cracked Warp (one of the first Thalion Games) we
 called Thalion and  visited them with our cracked copy.

 Michael Bittner seemed impressed, because his  whole game was a mainly a copy-
 protection with scrolling and sound FX. If I remember right, Claus fixed a bug
 in his crack too, that crashed the original somewhere in the game. Nexus 6 did
 graphics, coding  and sounds  and he was  involved in the early development of
 LX, but he decided to quit on LX and enjoy the nice summer instead, I think it
 had been a good decision, if you look on the money we earned with that game.

 The Cyclone, that's my nickname  did mainly  programming and artwork. We coded
 some Demos but we never  released them ;-) There where  some nice scrollers in
 the early days, a bob-demo with lots of sprites, distorters, the Longscreen (a
 scroller that  is loading graphics  from disk while  they are scrolling on the
 screen). Most of our demos  where technology  studies for  other programs that
 where coded afterwards. Claus used  his fast disk-routines in the fastest copy
 program on the ST called Turbobooster. It had  many  advanced features I can't
 remember  today. I  did some  demos on  my own, (New  Year Demo, Neo Show) and
 spent a lot of time with  sync-scrolling and  overscan  research, but  I never
 included the final routines in any demo.

 There  was only  one  Demo we released, it's called the  AUDIOPAC-Demo. It had
 lots of chip tunes build in and you could play Pac-Man while listening. If you
 want to take a look try

STS : back to Lethal Xcess. Surely you remember lots of funny or not so funny 
stories about the game development. Did you have  previous experience in this 
field ? And what  happened to  the development team afterwards ? Do you still 
work in the gaming industries ?

 Heinz: That's a lot of questions, let's start with  the funny stories. There is
 one story which is very hard to believe. When we coded LX we  used a rather old
 font for the intro and  end-sequence. It had been  partially finished in summer
 1990 and wasn't  used  because I  wasn't happy  with some of the  letters, well
 truly I still hate the "R" and the "B" today. When we released LX in 1991 there
 had been a  demo-crew  called "Cybernetics" which  used a very  similar font in
 some of their demos. I can't  remember that I have  ever heard about that group
 nor their demos until May 2002, when I accidentally hit  their Website. Looking
 at their logo I thought: "Wow, these guys  ripped the LX font and improved it."
 But when I sent an email to Jerome Hubert AKA   Metal Ages it figured out, that
 he created this  font and  logo totally  independent. And to make it worse, the
 Cybernetics thought that we had ripped their font for Lethal  Xcess.

 The Cybernetics mentioned this  in the  credits  screen of  their Relapse demo.
 They sent some greetings to Thalion for ripping their graphics. That's a  funny
 thing too, because nobody at Thalion had been involved in LX, they only allowed
 us to use the subtitle WOD II for our game, which  had indeed been very nice of
 Thalion. That's the  only  near  funny story I  can  tell. There  had been many
 stories in the past, but that had been a decade ago, I am not sure I could tell
 them correctly today, so I won't try.

 Let's get  to  our "previous  experience" in  the field  of  game-design. Game
 development is very hard work, today it has become a real industry. In the 90s
 it had been mainly testing and modifying ideas. A good game should be fair but
 not too easy. In LX we pushed it to  the limit, it's a  nice game for hardcore
 shoot'em up  professionals, but it's not  nearly as hard  as  some  old Arcade

 Before LX we had only  played games  on different  systems (Atari ST / Amiga /
 Mega-Drive / PC-Engine / Neo Geo). LX  was our  first and last game. We earned
 only 4.000 EUR with LX, and since it had been  one year of  very hard work, we
 decided to stop wasting our time. At last it was not our decision, it had been
 the decision of the German Atari / Amiga users who decided to play some boring
 adventure or  strategic games  as well as RPG's, which  used  only  10% of the
 capabilities their hardware offered. And it had been the decision of all those
 guys who played LX without purchasing it. Today we are both IT-consultants and
 still good  friends, even  Mirko  is  in the  IT-business, he is  some kind of
 web-design-wizard and a great coder too (

STS : This leads me to ask you why you decided to open an official LX homepage 
some time ago. Was  it by pure  nostalgia or were  you kind of sick  of the PC 
world where tons of brainless games are released every month ?

 Heinz: It's a whole lot of nostalgia  and the  fact that new ST(E) emulators,
 like STEEM showed up on the scene which  allowed lots of people to play LX on
 their current machines. It took  exactly one year  from contacting  the STEEM
 guys (Hi Russ) to playing LX on STEEM. Since STEEM 2.2, it's fully supported.
 I would love to see LX running on SainT, but today that's  not working. Maybe
 I could motivate Leonard (Hi Arnaud!) to improve his Emulator a bit.

 It's true there are  tons of games  released every  month that  can be  simply
 called trash. But there  had always  been a few good games  and lots of trash.
 Just take a look at the software archives for the ST or Amiga and ask yourself
 how many good games where released a decade ago. And while you are at it, take
 a close look at the Amiga Version of the same game, and  honestly ask yourself
 which one is better. It had been no big deal coding a technical excellent game
 for the Amiga, but it was very hard  to do it on  the ST. We coded 3 month for
 the ST version of LX, most time  had been spent on optimising  sprite routines
 and a sync-scrolling  that works on all  machines. The Amiga  version had been
 done in less than a week, including the "Amiga  on a wire tools", which allows
 us to assemble directly into the  memory of a  connected Amiga from the ST. In
 fact there  is  no  Amiga-Source  for LX, there is only  one source  for  both

STS : now I can't resist to ask you this question : you rumoured a sequel to 
LX on your homepage. Is it some  kind of crazy  dream or are  there actually 
people interested in this project ? 

 I am a bit surprised to  hear that question, especially  from you, because  you
 are one of these  guys who  can't wait  for a  new version of LX :). Well, it's
 definitely no dream. I get a lot of eMails from  people who liked LX  and would
 like a  sequel, even  today. I'm actually  thinking  about  a PC-Version  of LX
 because I decided to learn C++ and converting LX will be my motivation to learn
 it really quick. It's unbelievable what you can do on a current PC, even if you
 use only C. Whether  you like  it or  not, the PC  had  become an  unbelievable
 powerful machine and  thanks  to DirectX  you  don't have to  code for  lots of
 different  hardware anymore. But maybe  we will port it  to the GBA first, I am
 currently thinking about  it. Marc  converted WoD to  GBA but it  looks like it
 will never be released because nobody knows who owns the rights today.

STS : btw, I'm now  listening to  that great  TURRICAN soundtrack  CD I bought 
from a German website. Do you know if there are such CDs featuring soundtracks 
from Wings of Death 1 and 2 ? Any plan to do one then ?

 Some of the Soundtracks  are still  released  on CD, you  can download them from
 Alexander Hollands website (Thalion Webshrine) or you  can order them on CD from
 the Thalion  Source. I hope  Jochen  gets his  part  from  the sales. But as you
 mention it, I will try to contact Jochen and  see what I can do for you. BTW the
 CDs are  called "Give  it a try" (two  tracks from  Wings of  Death) and "Jochen
 Hippel remixed" (Level  4 Track from  Lethal Xcess), but there  is no collection
 with only WoD and LX soundtracks on it. The "remixed" CD seems to be no official
 stuff, maybe it's a bootleg, but you better ask Jochen for that.

 Maybe we will sell an official CD from the LX site, and if that ever happens, it
 would be nice if you would really buy it instead  of copying it. The  price will
 not be very high and the  profits will be  shared between Jochen and the current
 development team. Our (small) part will be  used to speed up  development of LX,
 and if this happens to work, maybe  Jochen will be  motivated to  do more after-
 wards. We  are currently  thinking of  a way to  manage all of this without much
 risk on the financial  side. In  fact I already have  a good idea how to do this
 and I will try to put all  information on our  site ASAP. But  1st Jochen has to
 agree and deliver  the sounds. I have  already contacted  him some days ago, and
 he told me that  the rights for  the composition still  belong to  him. He  only
 sold the rights for a  single  version of  each  song, on a  specific  platform.
 If Jochen can deliver anything we will offer it to everybody who wants it.

STS : how did you find out that the ATARI scene was not dead ? Did you browse 
the net at random or did you feel the urge to know what had happened with the 
machine you had spent so much time on ?

 I have been always aware of the  Atari scene, but I simply  had no time left to
 get in touch. Today the retro-wave  catches most  of the  old coders. There are
 lots of people coding still on the ZX-Spectrum as  well as ST or Amiga. One day
 I used Google and searched for "Lethal Xcess", I couldn't believe how many hits
 I got.  I scanned  through all  the sites  and  found  many mistakes  and false
 information. I contacted some  webmasters and sent  in corrections. But some of
 them seemed  to be  too  busy to  answer, so I decided  to create  the official
 Lethal Xcess Website, that has been in February 2001. It had grown a lot in the
 last year, and surprisingly there's always something new popping out of the web
 that we never thought of.

STS : future ? Yep since we're not dead, does it make you want to contribute 
once again to our friendly community ? Do you have nay  contacts with active 
sceners ? What about sceners you met a decade ago ?

 Well that contacts have  been lost, except  for the X-Troll  guys, which where
 close friends  anyway. Last  month I called Marc  Rosocha. If I have  the time
 I do some chatting  with Leonard (SainT / ST-Sound-Plugin) but  have never met
 him so far. He seems to be the  best ST Demo Coder  alive and a  very nice guy
 too. A lot of new contacts comes from the website, there is a lot of very nice
 mail and support coming from Atari sceners.

 And last not least I am trying to contact people which had been involved in
 Lethal Xcess. I found Richard Karsmakers that way, and he delivered me some
 nice stories for Lethal Xcess. I had never seen  them before. For those who
 want to read them, visit the stories department of the LX website.

STS : Have you already attended parties or not ? What about  attending one ? 
Surely the current ATARI sceners would love to meet and talk to someone like 
you !

 We had visited some local parties during  the development of LX, I think they
 had been organized by a guy  called Dirk Hoeschen  AKA Captain Headcrash. But
 since we released no demos, we never achieved something like "fame" and so we
 never got any  invitations, as I said we  had been pretty isolated ;-) Things
 changed when we accidentially met Marc on a computer fair, soon afterwards we
 presented a cracked Version of Warp to the Thalion guys and after that we met
 a lot of the oldskool heroes like TEX, Delta Force, TCB, TLB...

STS : What's your opinion  regarding the survival of ATARI systems ? Are you 
interested in clones ? Would you like to see more stuff on the good old ST ? 
Have you actually watched the last  generation demos on ST such as Suretrip, 
Sweetie, Do Things, Breath to name a few ? 

 Heinz: That's a lot  of  questions, let's start  with the  survival of Atari.
 Honestly, I have no idea. The ST(E) will survive  as long as  there is such a
 great  community  to  support  it. I  can't  tell how  long that  will  last.
 Let's get to the clones, well what clones should that be? Atari as we know it
 is long gone, maybe you can create a  new (Multi)-TOS  based machine, I think
 the guys who build the  Milan  series own  the rights to this OS now. But the
 Milan was quite expensive. Coldfire ? Why  not, but there  is a small problem
 with spare-time  projects (I can  tell you :) And  last not  least remember :
 "Atari, Power without the price". What power could  beat the performance of a
 low priced Athlon or Duron? (I hope nobody would hit me for that :)

 I am frequently  buying old Atari  hardware on German  eBay from time to time.
 I would like to get a Falcon  and maybe a TT, but they are rare and expensive.
 Would I like  to see  more stuff  on the  old ST ? Yes why not, it's  always a
 pleasure to see some  nice demos  on that  old hardware. With 10 or more years
 and the internet as an information source it should be  easy for the right guy
 to code cool stuff on the ST. Today the best kept secrets are available to all
 of us, on dozens of web pages. It would have  been great if we  would have had
 that  resources in  the old  days. Even  working together  in a team is easier
 today, we simply knew nobody when we started with the ST.

 Suretrip? Breath? You are honestly  asking  me to comment these demos, I think
 you can give a better  comment on them :) Since that newskool/oldskool  debate
 on DHS I have watched  a lot of  those newer demos. Thanks to evil for putting
 the nice list together. Before that, the only recent stuff I had seen was done
 by Leonard, he seems to have a lot  of time :) Beside Leonards  demos I really
 like the "Odd Stuff" demo, which combines  technical quality with nice visuals
 and lots of amazing graphics. It's the  direction the Amiga scene went shortly
 before I left the scene.

STS : Before I forget, please  tell us  about stuff we could send you to help 
you complete your homepage. What can we expect to  find over there  in a near 
future ? Personally, I would love to get my hands on the gfx you made for the 
game. Can we dream of that ? :)

 Hmmm, we are always searching for reviews of  Lethal Xcess we  don't own, there
 is still a lot of stuff missing e.g. the review you sent in :-). There are some
 scans in low  quality or  missing. It  would be  also nice to  get the original
 magazines but a 150-300 DPI scan  in Photoshop format  would do nearly as good.
 The graphics  are  already on  the pages, just  take a close  look at the level
 maps. The bosses will be  added to the  gallery if I  ever get the time and the
 other stuff will follow, bit by bit.

 What do we need then? Graphics are always welcome, because that's the most time
 consuming part for me. I would like some  cool manga-style comics for the intro
 and end-sequence. SH3 from the RGs  promised to paint  this stuff, I can't wait
 to  see the  drafts. The missing stuff it's not  defined very  sharply. If  you
 think you can help us, just ask. That's what we've got an eMail-address for.

STS : Do you still have contacts with these famous Sceners behind Thalion 
Software or Eclipse ? Other contacts with extra people like Mad Max ?

 Heinz: I called Marc some weeks ago, and I  chatted with Jochen last week, but
 otherwise I would  say no. I  will try  to contact  Erik Simon because of some
 permissions for WoD, maybe he can help me  with some  questions concerning the
 rights. But  if I  remember  right  Alex asked  him about  that  too, and  the
 situation is not very easy, because Thalion gave away the rights the last days
 before the company  closed it's gates  forever. I would also  like to  contact
 Till Bubeck and ask him  something about NEOchrome  Master. And I haven't seen
 Michael Raasch, who is also a nice guy, for an eternity.

STS : it's time to get  your braincells  boiling with  our "customized" 
brainstorming exercise ! Fill in the blanks with whatever comes to you.

H : [H]ighlander a nice fantasy movie from the 80s. I liked only the 1st part.
E : [E]ric Simon that's my son, the name accidentally reminds me of ...
I : [I]nvincible Spirit, some kind of hardcore electronic music from the 80s.
N : [N]iclas Thisell a great coder which didn't only belong to TCB but did
         some great games and demos for the ST.
Z : [Z]1, a very nice German car from my customer BMW.
R : [R]otator, a tank game with a rotating playfield which had never been
         finished on the ST. Same thing with the [R]oman Empire which had been
         a strategic game like Nectaris (PC-Engine). I painted all the graphics
         but the coder Klaus-Peter Plog AKA Plogi AKA Blue Devil never finished
         it. You will find them in my website soon.
U : [U]nreal Tournament, nice ego-shooter, even if I prefer Quake III Team
         Arena. We had lot's of fun with some clan members of MTW, hell these
         guys where good :-) (
D : [D]esperado, my favourite action movie, gets 11 out of 10 ;-) otherwise
         [D]elta Force.
O : [O]pen Source, which should be the future of coding, if M$ and others
         don't succeed in trying to change the rules (e.g. DCMA II). And
         maybe a nice demo called [O]dd Stuff.
L : [L]ea Katharina, my sweet 5 years old daughter. Or more Atari related
         [L]eonard one of the best coders alive and a nice guy too.
F : [F]lashback, the last demo of TCB with a very strange scrolltext. I
         wonder what mushrooms Tanis had tasted when he wrote it :-)

STS : thanks for giving us some of your time. We surely appreciate it a lot ! 
Now do you  have some sort  of message  you would  like to spread  out to our 
last words. I  REALLY  want to  thank you  for bringing  us what  is still my 
favourite ST shoot'em up (long hours  spent killing the  bastards and working 
out my thumb :)

 Heinz: That explains why you exhaust all your  lifes in level 1, the thumb is
 too slow, use a different  trigger-finger if you want to win ;-). Ok, it's up
 to me to say some final  words now. Thanks for  thinking that I  am important
 enough to do an interview with me.  Thanks for all those nice eMails from the
 ST community. And thanks to all the ST coders, artists and musicians and last
 not least the webmasters who kept the scene alive in the last 10 years (50 Hz
 or not, who cares :). Keep on with your excellent work!

Alive 5